Hello and welcome to Season Two of our show, Teaching with Creativity.   I’m Mary Dagani, your host for today’s show.  I am a content specialist here at EducationCloset– your digital learning hub for arts integration and STEAM.   

I’m so glad you can be here today!  I’d like to talk to you today about something very important to all of us teachers – energy.


How many of us would love to have a little extra energy at the end of the day, right?  Well, I was actually thinking about energy, but more in terms of a connection I saw between dance & science. 

I know that even thinking about teaching dance or movement can be pretty intimidating, so I’d like to share with you some fundamentals that I hope will help you become more comfortable. 

When it comes to the elements of dance, remember the acronym B-A-S-T-E. 

It stands for :  Body    Actions   Space    Time  and   Energy

How does the energy we study in science and the energy that dancers use go together, you ask?? Let me explain…

We’ll start by taking a look at the Next Generation Science Standards Performance Expectation for 4th grade, PS3-2.  This standard states:

Make observations to provide evidence that energy can be transferred from place to place by sound, light, heat, and electric currents.

The DCI (Disciplinary Core Ideas) that support this Expectation are:

  • Definition of energy – Energy can be moved from place to place by moving objects or through sound, light, or electric currents.
  • Conservation of Energy and Energy Transfer – Energy is present whenever there are moving objects, sound, light, or heat. 

I want you to take that 2nd DCI and store it right here, because we’re going to be coming back to that one later….

Now, let’s turn to the National Core Arts Standards and look at the 4th grade dance standards.

The following dance standard strikes a chord with me:

DA: Pr4.1

  • Anchor Standard:   Select, analyze, and interpret artistic work for presentation
  • Enduring Understanding:   Space, time, and energy are basic elements of dance.


And here’s where it really gets good:

Essential Question:   How do dancers work with space, time and energy to communicate artistic expression?

Which brings us directly to standard “c” which reads:

Analyze movements and phrases for use of energy and dynamic changes and use adverbs and adjectives to describe them.  Based on the analysis, refine the phrases by incorporating a range of movement characteristics…

So let’s stop and think about all of this… the way a dancer ATTACKS the movement – so is the movement sharp/sudden, smooth/sustained or the way a dancer holds TENSION in their muscles – are they tight or are they loose?  The FORCE of which they make their movements – are they strong or gentle?  The WEIGHT or the heaviness a dancer shows by being connected to the earth or light on their feet as if they are floating away.  And of course the FLOW – are they moving freely or are their movements constrained or bound. 

So, Attack   Tension   force   weight     flow 

Are you thinking what I’m thinking?  Yes, all of these are examples of how dancers show ENERGY in dance?? How would all this energy look in the classroom? 

Well, we know what energy looks like in a classroom, don’t we??

But teaching energy and teaching movement might look a little different. I highly recommend starting out individually. This is where you would explore movement, just basic, natural movement with the kids.

I’m going to make a suggestion here.  And If it sounds a little new age, take it with a grain of salt.  We’re are just using this idea to introduce the element of energy in dance.  And that idea is Tai Chi.

Where I live in Southern California, at any time during the morning while I’m driving to work, I can look out the window and see people in the neighborhood, in their yards, or in the park practicing Tai Chi.

Tai Chi are the long, flowing movements that are very slow.  And they help to calm the mind and help us to focus. And what classroom couldn’t use some calming and focus at times!

In Tai Chi they have something called an energy ball.  For those of you who are listening later as a podcast, I’ve included a link to more ideas on how to use an energy ball and a description of it.  (Tai Chi – energy ball)

So, let’s do a real quick example.  What you would do is rub your hands together and create some friction.  And stop.  Wait for a second and then pull your hands apart.

As you practice this you will start to feel what they term in Tai Chi as “life force” or energy in between your hands.

Have the kids practice making that energy ball bigger.  They can roll their energy ball around.  They can make it bigger.  They can roll it over to the side.  Roll it up high.  Roll it down low.  Toss it in the air.  Catch their ball.

And after some exploration with the energy ball, put the kids into groups to do a technique called shadowing.

This technique is when a student will stand behind another student and copy their movements.  Not face to face.  They’re back to front and they are shadowing, just like our shadow follows us, the students follow each other. 

You can do this in groups of 2, 3, or 4.  You can actually do it in a larger group – you might want to give it a try.  See what works for you.  But remember we always want to have those kids in their personal space.  After all, space is another element of movement and dance.

Here is how they can work together.  You can have 2 students, one shadowing the other.  After a period of time you can tell them to “switch”, then they turn and all of the sudden student B is now the leader and student A is now following.  So they each get turns following and shadowing. 

You can also do it in triangle shapes.  So, think of groups of 3.  (Let me get my paper here.)  I just arbitrarily numbered these, but, for instance, student 1 is the leader, 2 and 3 are shadowing student 1.  And after a bit of time, the teacher says “switch”.  Students 1 and 3 turn to shadow student 2.  And after saying “switch” again, students 1 and 2 will shadow student 3.  And so on so forth…  Then you keep going around the triangle shape, rotating the leader and the other two students are shadowing.

You could also do that same thing with a group of 4 and make a diamond shape.  Student 1 is the leader, as 2, 3, and 4, are shadowing.  Then “switch”, student 2 becomes the leader, and 1, 4, and 3 are shadowing.  Teacher determines when to “Switch” – Student 3 becomes leader etc. etc, etc…  And you are always switching .  They’re each getting a turn to be leader and to be the shadows.

Don’t forget to always bring these connections back to how they are showing energy, and how they are moving.  Keep using those adverbs and those adjectives to describe how they are moving through the space.  That will support their learning as well.

How can we bump up the energy on this lesson?

Well, in the standard it talked about how energy can be transferred from place to place by sound.  How about using music?

I recommend using music that does not have words, or is sung in a foreign language so the children aren’t focusing on the words and trying to move with the words.  They are listening more to the melodic lines. 

I’d like to suggest some music for you.  For example, (Let me get my iPad down here.)  Gustav Holst’s, The Planets – here is a bit of the first movement: Mars, the Bringer of War.  A very energetic piece.  (music plays) You can hear that, hopefully.  Feel that weight, force, tension, and attack?  Or for contrast, how about a movement called: Venus, the Bringer of Peace?  (music plays)  The energy being very, very loose and gentle and light and free with that beautiful horn solo.

As you can see, the music can set the mood for the energy of a performance.

Another one that I would like to suggest is Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.  One of the movements is called:  The Hut on Fowl’s Legs (aka The Hut of Baba Yaga) (music plays)  Talk about weight, force, tension, and attack?  There you have it!

So you can see the music is going to add a lot of energy to the performance! 

And, if you are going to add music… remember that 2nd DCI I told you to store up here?  Let’s go back and take a look and think about moving objects.

How about Moving Objects?

If you are listening to this on a future podcast, right now I’m going to be showing some props that you can use. I’ve included links in the show notes as well.

One type of prop you could use, are  scarves.  Scarves are very flowing, so if you have anything gentle, any kind of gentle, loose, smooth, sustained, motion, scarves are great to use with the kids.

This dance fan,  I love this fan.  I bought it on Amazon…  You can see the fan has a rainbow silk tail on it so it is almost like a comet.  It could be used like a comet and you can really show force and energy with it.  You could even show the opposite – some loose, smooth, sustained motions as well.

And my favorite?  OK, are you ready??  I have to turn out the lights.  How about a…. A Lighted balloon!!!

An LED balloon.  Can you imagine doing movement with this?  Turn down the lights in your classroom, or the auditorium in a performance for the parents.  They would absolutely love it!

So, there you go.  LED Balloons, a must have!

Just think of the performance your students could come up with to show off their understanding of energy through dance.  And what a great way to assess them too.

Well, I’m about out of time and energy… (ahem) and will sign off now.

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And remember: you deserve to thrive as an educator.  Let your creativity shine through.  Thanks so much for watching – I’ll catch you next time on The Teaching with Creativity Show.

So long for now!!